ADHD boredom may feel particularly frustrating and lead to feelings of restlessness.
If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may feel as though you get bored more easily than others, particularly when things aren’t challenging enough. This can become a source of daily frustration and make it hard to stay focused and motivated.
Understanding the connection between ADHD and boredom can help you develop strategies to manage and minimize its impact on your life.
Individuals with ADHD tend to require higher levels of stimulation and often have difficulty maintaining attention. This can make mundane or repetitive tasks feel particularly tedious to people with ADHD, increasing their susceptibility to boredom.
Several studies have demonstrated a link between boredom and attention difficulties. A 2020 study found a strong association between ADHD and “trait boredom,” which is when someone is predisposed to boredom.
A 2016 study also found that people with trait boredom are also more likely to have problems sustaining attention, which can lead to further feelings of boredom.
Do people with ADHD need more stimulation?
To combat feelings of boredom and restlessness, individuals with ADHD often seek out highly-stimulating activities. This can be attributed, in part, to dysregulation in the brain’s reward and motivation system.
The ADHD brain actively seeks stimulation to rapidly and intensely increase dopamine levels, leading to a pursuit of pleasurable rewards as a form of self-medication. This is somewhat similar to how the brain functions in people with addiction.
Boredom isn’t considered an official symptom of ADHD according to the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR).
But individuals with ADHD often experience a heightened sense of restlessness and difficulty engaging in activities they find uninteresting or not stimulating enough, which can lead to feelings of boredom.
What does boredom feel like with ADHD?
If you have ADHD, boredom may feel particularly frustrating and agitating. It may manifest as restlessness, a strong urge to engage in stimulating activities, or difficulty focusing on tasks you perceive as uninteresting.
With ADHD, there’s often a sense of dissatisfaction and a constant need for novelty and stimulation to stay engaged in what you’re doing and to prevent feelings of boredom.
Boredom intolerance — the inability to tolerate feelings of boredom — can impact your productivity and ability to finish a task. Individuals with boredom intolerance often experience discomfort, restlessness, or a strong desire to escape dull or unstimulating situations.
Boredom intolerance may contribute to impulsivity and the seeking out of high intensity or novel experiences to alleviate these feelings. This can potentially lead to risk-taking behaviors or reliance on external stimuli for satisfaction.
If you have ADHD, it’s important to work through moments of boredom to help improve your focus, build resilience, and increase productivity.
Here are some tips for working through boredom:
Create a daily routine or schedule
Establishing a structured routine can help provide a sense of organization and stability. Set specific times for activities like waking up, meals, work or study sessions, exercise, and leisure time.
This can help you better manage your time, tasks, and responsibilities, leading to increased efficiency and a greater sense of accomplishment.
Practice mindfulness and self-awareness
Develop mindfulness techniques to observe and accept your feelings of boredom without judgment. Cultivate self-awareness to recognize when boredom arises and explore healthier ways to respond to it.
Seek out challenging activities
Look for activities that provide a level of challenge and novelty to keep your mind engaged. This can include hobbies, games, puzzles, or creative projects that capture your interest and offer a sense of fulfillment.
Develop a variety of interests
Cultivate a diverse range of interests and hobbies. This way, when one activity becomes less stimulating or loses its appeal, you have other options to explore. Having a variety of interests can help prevent excessive boredom and keep you engaged.
Boredom is a common trait among individuals with ADHD, often stemming from low dopamine levels and a heightened need for stimulation.
But by implementing strategies like maintaining a daily routine, engaging in challenging activities, and cultivating diverse interests, you can effectively navigate and overcome boredom, which can increase your productivity and feelings of fulfillment.